Zimbabwe’s top court on Friday dismissed an opposition bid to have presidential election results annulled over alleged rigging in favour of Robert Mugabe’s successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
In a verdict widely predicted by analysts, Chief Justice Luke Malaba strongly criticised the MDC party’s case and upheld Mnangagwa’s win.
Following the announcement, finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said Mnangagwa would be sworn in on Sunday.
“The court finds the applicant has failed to place before it clear, direct, sufficient and credible evidence” of irregularities, Malaba said in his ruling at the Constitutional Court in Harare.
“There was no proof of the happenings of these irregularities, as a matter of fact.”
Mnangagwa, of the ruling Zanu-PF party, won the July 30 election with 50.8% of the vote – just enough to meet the 50% threshold needed to avoid a run-off against MDC leader Nelson Chamisa, who scored 44.3%.
His inauguration would now take place on Sunday, justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said.
Lawyers for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had argued that the results should be annulled due to alleged “massive doctoring” of the vote.
But the court backed the arguments of lawyers representing Mnangagwa, Zanu-PF and the election commission who rubbished claims that the opposition had produced any substantial evidence of fraud.
“I once again reiterate my call for peace and unity above all,” Mnangagwa said on Twitter. “Let us all now put our differences behind us. It is time to move forward together.”
Mnangagwa, who has vowed to revive Zimbabwe’s ruined economy, had hoped the elections would draw a line under Mugabe’s repressive 37year rule and open up a stream of foreign investment and aid.
Campaigning was more open and peaceful than previous votes under Mugabe.
But the election was marred by the army opening fire on opposition protesters, killing six, allegations of vote-rigging and a violent crackdown on opposition activists.
The MDC had cited a catalogue of alleged discrepancies, including incorrect counting, fake “ghost” polling stations, and claimed that at some polling stations more ballots being counted than there were registered voters.
The party issued a statement saying it would respect the court verdict despite being the victim “of chicanery and electoral pilferage”.
“The sombre mood in the country in the wake of today’s court verdict is in itself a telling statement,” it added.
The EU has called on all parties to accept the verdict and called for reform.